Katas Raj Temple, the Hindu Temple of Pakistan

Surprisingly, in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, there are still some Hindu pilgrimage sites. Nani Mandir of Balochistan and the Chandragup Mud Volcano, which I have introduced in earlier blogs, are examples of these remaining pilgrimage sites. Until 1947, when India and Pakistan separated and became independent (from the British Indian Empire), many Hindus lived in Pakistan at the time.

The Katas Raj Temple is a Hindu temple complex located on the Potohar Plateau in the Salt Range of the Punjab Province. Several temples are surround a sacred pond called Amrit Kund. The beautiful waters of Amrit Kund are found in the stories of Indian mythology. The story goes that the lake was made from the tears shed from the Lord Shiva after his first wife, Sati, died and he was inconsolable.

In 2005, the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani visited the Temple, and noting the decaying appearance of it at that time, the Pakistani Government started cleaning up the holy pond and repairing the buildings in 2006. However, even though the lake had been cleaned up by 2012, the water levels suddenly dropped. There was a big lawsuit against a nearby cement company which was found to be the cause in the drop in water levels. Although water levels have recovered a little, it has not returned to its original state since.

The ceiling of the Baradari (Pavillion) near Amrit Kund was in the process of being restored. The pattens of plants have been redrawn, with a notable influence of Islamic design.

Near the holy pond, a special Shiva Temple enshrines the Lord Shiva. The priest told us, “Although the COVID-19 Pandemic has decreased the number of pilgrims, we expect more people from Pakistan to come during the next Maha Shivaratri Festival.”

This is inside one of the rooms of the Hanuman Temple, part of the complex. Some of the old murals remain intact.

From one of the Hindu mythological stories, taken from “Ramayana” seems to be represented in this mural. It looks like an army of monkeys was engraved here. It seems that the faces have been scraped off.

The image of Ganesha is painted on a wall of the Hanuman Temple.

The Shree Rama Chandra Temple was restored on the outside. However, the interior was still in need of restoration.

This is one of the mural paintings on the second floor of the Shree Rama Chandra Temple. It has a very typical Indian look.

The Hindu Temple Complex was also the home (haveli) of Hari Singh. He was the last monarch of the Princely State of Kashmir and Jammu, who decided to assign Jammu and Kashmir to India on October 26, 1947, with the separation of India and Pakistan. At that time, the ruling class in Jammu and Kashmir was Hindu, but most of the residents were Muslims, so it was a very difficult decision to make for Hari Singh. However, there was an invasion of Pakistani troops for which he needed the support to fight them, so he decided to ally with India.

The courtyard and outside of the building are fairly simple, and were in the process of being restored.

At the top of the Complex hill is the Sat Ghara Temple. It is a thick stone building.

Just downhill from the Sat Ghara Temple, are the remains of a stupa. It was hard for me to believe it when I heard it, but an investigation was conducted by the British archeologist Alexander Cunningham, which concluded that the pagoda was made during the time of King Ashoka in the 3rd century BC. Once the Gandhara culture declined, the Hindu Temples of Katas Raj were build during the prosperous Hindu culture in between the years of 7th – 10th centuries.

You can stroll around the temples yourself, but if you request a guide at the entrance, you can also see inside the temples that are normally locked, so I recommend you take the tour with the guide!

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
Visit: Jan 2022, Chakwal, Punjab

Category : - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > ◆ Punjab > - Salt Range / Soon Valley > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan
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Snow Leopards Etched On Rock (Indus riverside, Chilas)

There are many rock engravings which can be seen on the Indus River (Gilgit River/ Hunza River) basin in northern Pakistan, especially along the rocky shores from Shatial to Hunza, where the number are said to exceed 50,000 drawings.

The oldest ones date back to the BC, depicting hunting scenes and of the Alpine ibex, and with newer “Rock Paintings” that were carved by passing merchants, pilgrims and invaders who were all traveling on the Silk Road. On the banks of the Indus River around the Chilas area, is a sort of “Rock Carving Gallery.” When leading a general tour, I point out the carvings that were made by passing Buddhists but this time, I searched specifically for “snow leopards etched on the rocks.”

 

This is the scene of “Snow Leopard hunting the Alpine ibex” which can be seen from the Karakoram Highway, not far from the Chilas Shangri-La Hotel, a hotel often used by the foreign tourists.

 

Sometimes, the local people who dislike the images of Buddha paint over them with a lime-like substance. These are washed off and cleaned in a way as to not damage the rock carvings. 。

 

The ears and body have a very wolf-like shape, but the long and thick tail shows that it is a snow leopard.

 

The rock carvings along the Karakoram Highway have been considerably damaged by being painted over by locals. However, on the opposite riverbank across the bridge, there was considerably less damage and we could find some rock carvings in good condition.

 

A pagoda is depicted in the image. Early etchings were carved using a hard stone, but those of the Buddhist pilgrimages era are more delicate using more precise carving tools. The pilgrims aiming for “Gandhara,” who would have carved the image of the Buddha and the pagoda, may have been waiting out a high-water event along the Indus River, crossing here once the water levels dropped.

 

Not only Buddhists, but various people from different ethnicities and religions have crossed this area. This is perhaps a drawing of a person who has killed an Alpine ibex, possibly a person from Central Asia?  

 

And…over here, on some materials they describe this drawing being of a “mythical creature,” but it is the same as the horns of the Markhor!

 

A rock face with various pictures engraved on it.

 

It is a bit hard to make out, but it looks like a snow leopard is attacking its prey!

 

And on this one, it is even harder to see, but this depicts a snow leopard attacking an Alpine ibex on a cliff. It is a rare design where the artist drew the “cliff” on a rock canvas.

 

On the right is an ibex, and on the left, a snow leopard.

 

This time, I walked around for 2 hours, and could find 3 snow leopards etched in the rocks.

Unfortunately, the rock carvings in the Chilas area will be submerged by the Diamer-Bhasha Dam Project, which will be completed in the next few years. I have heard that some of the more famous rock carvings will be relocated, but most of them will be lost forever.

The drawings of wild animals etched by these ancient people are a lasting sign of their civilization and proof of that era. Isn’t there a way to conserve these somehow?

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA

Visit: April 2021, Chilas, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

※This article was uploaded in May 2021 to http://www.saiyu.co.jp/blog/wildlife/

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - the Karakoram Highway > - Indus river bank > - Rock art / Petroglyph > - Snow Leopard
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Petroglyphs of Shatial (Karakoram Highway)

Heading north on the Karakoram Highway as you enter Gilgit-Baltistan, the famous Buddhist archeological sites can be found between the Tangir and Darel Valleys. It is called the Shatial Rock Art Carving/Petroglyphs.

Since ancient times, this area was the point known as the “Old Silk Road” where the Indus River connects to the other valleys as a junction or crossroads.

Shatial has long been famous as a location for the “Ancient Buddhist Rock Carvings,” but even before these carvings were there, the tradition was for travelers, such as merchants and pilgrims, passing through Central Asia would carve their names and times into the rocks. These images of ancient characters (Sogdian or Bactrian) can be found near the bridges of Shatial.

 

People graze their goats along the banks of the Indus River. Rocks that were weathered down by water and time into sand. This is a place where people used to come to look for gold, but not so much anymore.

 

Taking the bridge that hangs over the Indus River in the Tangir Valley. Travelers from afar would cross this river during the winter months when the water was low, etching their footprints in the riverbanks. During the Buddhist era, monks and pilgrims would make their way to  “Gandhara.” They carved the Jataka tales and Stupas into the large rocks, creating an alter on the riverbanks.

 

The bridge of Shatial and Art Rock Carvings. Depicted is a stupa and the form of a Buddha carved into the stone.

 

Motifs of ibex are also engraved on the upper right. Ibex only live in elevations of 3,000m or higher so possibly the travelers saw them on the way along the Hunza River as they crossed the Hindu Kush – Karakoram Mountain range. There are no dates or names of the artists included with each carving, but these are precious relics that pay tribute to the history and people who have lived here since ancient times.

 

Sadly, the scenery along the Indus river is about to change.

There are two major projects to build dams between Besham and Chilas along the Karakoram Highway. There will be the Dasu Dam and Daimer Basha Dam Hydroelectric Power Plants installed along the river.
Although this plan has been in place for a long time, the construction is proceeding at a very fast pace as there is a shortage of power. This is following a decision to cancel the plans for a coal burning power plant.

Parts of the Karakoram Highway and some villages will be submerged, but along with that the historical features and the lifestyle of the people who live along the Indus river will also be forever altered. It is a great pity that such scenery along this great river will be lost.

Some of the main rock paintings will probably be relocated, but many of them will be submerged.

How much time does this scenery have left?

It was hard to get to and such a long-distance trip to get to see the Karakoram Highway and landscape. But it is in its final countdown.

Will this end up being only a precious memory?

 

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA
Visit: Dec 2020, The Karakorum Highway, Shatial, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - the Karakoram Highway > - Indus river bank > - Rock art / Petroglyph
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(video) Lahore Fort – History by Night

History by Night at Lahore Fort on the weekend evening.

Although held in Urdu for the general public in Pakistan, this is the only way to enter the illuminated treasure of Lahore Fort, Sheesh Mahal.

 

Video & text : Mariko SAWADA

Visit : Mar 2019, Lahore, Punjab

Category : = Video Clip Punjab > ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > ◆ Punjab > - Lahore > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan
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The Fusion of Eastern and Western Civilizations in Gandhara (Peshawar Museum Exhibitions)

Gandhara’s art is strongly influenced by many civilizations and art influences such as Greece, West Asia, Persia (Iran), India, and more. The first Greek civilization in the 4th century BC, was brought to the Gandhara region with Alexander the Great in the Great Expedition to the East. This is when the fusion of the Greek and Orient civilizations, was born and is now called the Hellenistic civilization.

Gandhara art reached its peak in a later period, in the 1st to 5th century AD with the Kushan dynasty. Buddhism, which was born in India, so alongside the Buddhist statues met with the Western gods and elements of both were incorporated into Gandhara Buddhist art.

This sculpture is of the Greek god Atlas, that appeared in Gandhara.

 

Atlas, the mythological Greek god that supports the sky at the western end of the world. In Gandhara, Atlas sits at the pedestal of the Buddha’s stupa and supports it. The Greek god that supports the Buddhist’s worldview…what a wonderful thought!

 

This is the Centaur, a half-horse monster that appears in Greek mythology.

The upper part of the body is human, the lower part of the body is a horse’s forelegs, and the rear part is a swirl-shaped tail fin like that of Trītōn (the son of Poseidon, the god of half-man and half-fish)

Centaur and Trītōn motifs often appear in right-angled triangular panels that are thought to have decorated the corners of buildings.

 

This is Vajrapāṇi (one of the Bodhisatvas in Mahayana Buddhism), who holds in his hand the Vajra (a weapon that symbolizes both the property of a diamond and a thunderbolt).

Its origin is Hercules, a hero of Greek mythology. Hercules, who assisted Kings with his awesome power, is depicted in the Gandhara as a guardian deity who is always beside the Buddha.

Hercules of Gandhara carries with him a Vajra, but the Hercules of Greece often has a club in his hands.

 

This piece shows a festoon pattern. A young man holding a wavy festoon (garland of flowers), which originated in Greece and Rome, and was very popular in Gandhara.
The cupid seems to carry the raised part of the festoon, and the lower part is decorated with grapes and a ribbon.

 

This is Hārītī and Pāñcika. Hārītī is both a goddess and a demon in the Buddhist tradition.

Hārītī was at first a cannibal demon that kidnapped and ate children. After the Buddha taught her a lesson about how parents suffer from the loss of their children, she became a “protector of children” and started to love both her own children and all others. In addition, since Hārītī had about 500 or 1,000 of her own kids, she is also a “guardian of safe childbirth.” She adorns pomegranate flowers on her hair, which is also a symbol of “fertility.”

This Hārītī looks like a Greek goddess, because it is based on the goddess of fate, Tȳchē in Greece.

 

The style of pillars that appear in Gandhara is generally the Greek Corinthian style decorated with acanthus leaves. However, the one pictured is another style that you might see in Gandhara.

At the top of the column, two humped cows are placed back to back, with (what is thought to be) a lion’s head in the middle of the design. This is the principle style of the capital (topmost part of the column) of ancient Persia (Iran) and can be seen in the ruins of Persepolis.

 

And this animal is a lion. Maybe you might think that a lion is an African animal, but at that time, there were “Asian lions” in Pakistan.

The relief of “the Lion Hunt” drawn on the ruins of Mesopotamia and the lion drawn on the ruins of Persepolis in Iran are famous, but this example is a lion in Gandhara art.

Although the wild Asian lions are now extinct in Iraq, Iran and Pakistan, they still live in the forests of Sasan Gir National Park, in Gujarat, India. There are about 500 of them!

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
(The photos are from a trip in Oct 2019 – Feb 2020)
Location: Peshawar Museum, Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Category : ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Peshawar / Khyber Pass > - Gandhara > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan > ◇ Museum of Pakistan
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Peshawar Museum

The Peshawar Museum has the best collection of Gandhara historical artifacts. Most of the exhibits are about Gandhara art and there are so many Buddhist biographical panels and decorations, there isn’t enough time to look through them all.

Like all other museums, this museum dates back to the days of the British Indian Empire and was built back in 1907 with the “Victoria Hall” to commemorate Queen Victoria.

 

This is the main hall of the Peshawar Museum. The Gandhara arts are exhibited in the gallery from the hall to the left of the entrance.

This exhibit featured unearthed sculptures from archaeological sites centered around Swat, like items found on the walls of the monasteries and from the base of stupas.

They express the stories of the Buddha (also called Jataka tales) and various scenes from the Buddha’s life. There are many exhibits and even if it is in the same scene, they have many different styles, so take the time to explore the museum, at your own pace.

 

This is “The Birth” panel. Maya (the Buddha’s mother) is in the center, with her right hand extended up and grabbing the tree, the prince is protruding from her upper body on the right side. The God Indra receives him and behind him is the Brahman God blessing him.

The panel of “The Life of the Buddha” is drawn with various motifs from “birth” to “nirvana.”

 

Among the Jataka tales, Gandhara had a very popular story with the Dīpankara Buddha (Buddha of the past).

“One day, when the godly young man, Sumedha (also known as Megha, is actually Shakyamuni in a previous life) heard that the Buddha was coming to town, he was eager to offer flowers to the Buddha, but when he tried to buy flowers, the King had already bought all of them, so he couldn’t purchase any. He met a girl passing by carrying water and flowers, and he convinced her to sell her 5 lotus flowers. When the Buddha appeared, Sumedha threw the flowers just like everyone else, but his 5 flowers did not fall to the ground, but instead floated in the air and decorated the Buddha’s head as a halo (numbus). Seeing some mud on the ground in front of the Buddha, Sumedha then prostrated his body and threw out his long hair to cover it, so that the feet of the Buddha would not get dirty in the mud. The Buddha then blessed Sumedha saying ‘You will be enlightened in the future and become a Buddha.’

In the panel on the photo, there is the young man, Sumedha, who throws his hair, left of center of the panel.

 

One of the most important exhibits of this museum is “The Fasting Buddha” statue. Compared to the one in Lahore’s museum, there are many missing parts, but the blood vessels and supporting bones are very realistic.

 

A statue of Siddhartha meditating under the tree (his first meditation).

While the prince watched a field under a tree, there were insects which emerged from the soil after it was dug up with a hoe; when a small bird eats the bug; then a large eagle in turn eats the bird. It was an event that made him feel the transience of life and later led to his enlightenment.

The pedestal is engraved with the signs of the first spring cultivation. It is a little difficult to see in the photo, but on the right side of the pedestal there are two cows plowing the field.

 

And another famous object in the Peshawar Museum, this is the casket for King Kanishka from Shah-ji-ki Dheri excavations.

The winter city of Gandhara during the Kushan period was Purushapura, now part of Peshawar. The only archaeological site found here is Shah-ji-ki Dheri, known as the Kanishka stupa. The casket was found from this site, and it was written in the Kharosthi script that it was “…this perfume box is the meritorious gift of Maharaja Kanishka in the city of Kanishkapura.” It was a discovery that proved that the legendary stupa actually existed.

So, is this the real thing? Based on the photos from the internet, it’s probably a replica.

 

The Peshawar Museum has two floors. The 2nd story is an exhibition of the various ethnic groups of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In particular I found the Kalash wooden statues “Gandao” (made to commemorate the memory of dead men, their contributions, and achievements) is a precious collection because well preserved ones can no longer be found in the Kalash Valley.

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
(Photos are from a trip in Oct2019 – Feb 2020)
Location: Peshawar Museum, Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Category : ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Peshawar / Khyber Pass > - Gandhara > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan > ◇ Museum of Pakistan
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(Drone Footage) Sirkap City Ruins, Taxila

This is the aerial view of the Taxila City Ruins Sirkap.
You can see the whole Ruins by aerial photography, where the city plan and roads are organized in a grid plan.

For more information about Sirkap Ruins, see here

Drone footage Sirkap, Taxila

 

 

Video & text : Mariko SAWADA

(Video is from a trip in Feb 2020)

Location : Sirkap, Taxila, Punjab

Category : = Video Clip Punjab > ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > - Taxila > - Gandhara > ◆ Punjab > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan
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(Drone Footage) Dharmarajika Stupa, Taxila

This is drone footage of the Dharmarajika Stupa.
Built in the 3rd century BC, it is one of the two stupas created in the Gandhara region by Mauryan King Ashoka. From the sky, you can see the circular platform of the huge stupa and the shrine surrounding it.

For information of the ruins of Dharmarajika, see here

Drone footage Dharmarajika Stupa, Taxila

 

Video & text: Mariko SAWADA
(Video is from a trip in Feb 2020)

Location : Dharnarajika, Taxila, Punjab

Category : = Video Clip Punjab > ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > - Taxila > - Gandhara > ◆ Punjab > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan
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Lahore Museum

Dating back since 1865, the Lahore Museum has a very long history. Opened in its current position in 1894, it is arguably the best museum in Pakistan, with its architecture and exhibition methods.

Built during the British Indian Empire, this is an “Indo-Saracenic architecture” building with elements of the Victorian’s Gothic Revival architecture and mixed with the traditional Indian architecture, was created by Lahore architect Sir Ganga Ram.

When you hear the term “Indo-Saracenic architecture” it might bring to mind the famous Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Station (formerly Victoria Station) in Mumbai, India, but you can also see similar buildings in old towns across Pakistan.

In 1875-1893, during the period of the British Indian Empire, the father of the writer Rudyard Kipling, most famous for his “The Jungle Book”, served as the director of the Lahore Museum. Later Lahore was featured in Kipling’s work, “Kim” which describes life during that time.

 

This is the entrance to the Lahore Museum. It starts with an exhibition of wooden carved doors from the Swart Valley.
This museum has galleries for each significant period of history of Pakistan, and features a wide variety of exhibits such as the Indus Valley Civilization (which may have ended now), Gandhara art, Mughal dynasty, the British Indian Empire era and more.

 

This museum is home to a world-renowned treasure of Pakistan: “The Fasting Buddha.” It is a work from the 2nd to 3rd centuries, excavated from the ruins of a monastery in Sikri (Khaībar Pakhtūnkhwā).

“Siddhartha traveled around the country after he left home, seeking the way, by the end he had spent six years of ascetic fasting in the forest. He lost weight, but he couldn’t get enlightened through this practice. ”

From the depressed eyes to an emaciated body where the blood vessels and supporting bones are visible. The statue expresses the divine spiritual power that has gone through rigorous training, this image is said to be the essence of Gandhara art.

“The Fasting Buddha” is also exhibited at the Peshawar Museum in addition to being shown at the Lahore Museum.

 

A stone stupa excavated from the same site at the Sikri ruins is on display near the Fasting Buddha statue.

 

This is a statue of Hārītī (Hariti), protector of childeren. This was also excavated from Sikri.

Hārītī was known as a cannibal demon that kidnaps children. After learning from the Buddha, the feeling of loss by the parents who suffered from the death of their children, she became a “guardian deity of children” as she began to love both her own children and others. In addition, Hārītī was said to have about 500 or 1,000 children, so she is also called the “guardian of safe delivery.” She has pomegranate flowers adorning her hair, which is also a symbol of “fertility.”

Doesn’t this Hārītī have the look of a Greek goddess, like the goddess of fate, Tȳchē? It is a work that expresses the fusion of Eastern and Western civilization and art in Gandhara, where Greek gods appeared in Buddhist art.

 

And this is part of the Indian Gallery.

When you visit on a tour, you will spend almost all the time at the Gandhara Gallery (mainly with “The Fasting Buddha” statue when it’s a busy period), and you won’t have much time to see the other galleries, but this museum has many attractions such as miniature art from the Mughal Empire.

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
(Photos are from a trip in Oct 2019 – Feb 2020)
Location: Lahore Museum, Lahore, Punjab

Category : - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > - Gandhara > ◆ Punjab > - Lahore > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan > ◇ Museum of Pakistan
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Taxila Museum

The Taxila Museum is where the artifacts from the archeological sites around the area are displayed. It is a very old museum built in 1928 when Pakistan was under the British Indian Empire.

 

In the hall, you will find displayed the Gandhara Buddha stucco (carried from the ruins), the pedestal of the Stupa, and the Buddhist legend engraved on the schist that once decorated the base of Stupa.

 

This is a replica of the votive Stupa at Mohra Moradu. It is a small stupa with seven-layered umbrella cover, and the real artifact is left in the monastery of the ruins.

 

This stupa is very similar to the one found at the top of Sanchi Stupa in India. There is a flat square and topped with “umbrellas.” Surrounding it is the “summit railing” in which the wooden fence has been replaced with stone.

 

As part of the stupa display, you can see these decorative stones.

 

This is the base of the votive Stupa. You can see the Buddha statue, with Greek columns between each panel, as well as the Atlas God supporting the base of the pedestal.

 

There are many exhibits that symbolize the fusion of Eastern and Western cultures. This piece shows a festoon pattern. This displays a young man holding a wavy festoon (garland of flowers), which originated in Greece and Rome, and was very popular in Gandhara.
The cupid seems to carry the raised part of the festoon, and the lower part is decorated with grapes and a ribbon.

 

This looks like a foreign person standing beside the Buddha statue. A stunning stucco statue that was decorating the Jaulian ruins and according to the description, it is “probably the consecrator and his wife.” It is thought that they are of the Saka race due to the shape of the hat.

 

And then this exotic figure, the Greek goddess of love, appearing in Gandhara, is Aphrodite.

 

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA

(Photos are from a trip in Feb 2020)

Location : Taxila Museum, Taxila, Punjab

 

Category : - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > - Taxila > - Gandhara > ◆ Punjab > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan > ◇ Museum of Pakistan
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